Annual report 2021

People and Groups; firstly I’d like to thank all the people who help Otley in Bloom do their work. This includes Otley Town Council, Otley BID, Rotary Club of Otley, Otley Maker Space, Wildlife Friendly Otley (WFO), Courtyard Planters, all Otley businesses, Leeds Parks Department, the residents of Garnett Wharfe, David Wilson Homes (DWH), the many individuals who give up time to help us, the committee and all members of OiB. Even the people who stop to thank us around town. It continues to be a real pleasure to work with you all to make the town a greener and prettier place.

Litter; the year started much as the last year ended with another lockdown and a lot of rain. Lockdown restrictions on numbers and spacing meant that OiB members used their time carrying out a series of big litter picks. We picked the east end of West Busk Lane leading down to the underpass entrance and we carried out yet another litter pick of the bypass. We then picked to link up with the Burley bypass maintained by Wharfedale Wombles.

Climate Emergency; we used the time to change our plantings in planters around town. We have moved over to changeable perennial plantings with more drought-tolerant plants for the summer. In the barrier planters this has proven especially successful with more time being spend dead-heading and cutting back than replacing annuals frequently.

Planters and Beds; OiB maintain some 80 different beds around Otley, from the very small to fair-sized gardens. Many require irregular rubbish removal, cutting back, dead-heading or re-planting in what might normally be abandoned pieces of land or in established planters. Where possible we maintain benches, fruit trees, herbs and bird boxes to enhance the areas. We provided multiple plant pots to Cross Green Children’s Centre.

Watering; Leeds Parks’ understandable abandonment of watering of council planters has thrown the costs of the watering back on the BID and OiB. Luckily, individuals are prepared to be paid to carry water around town and I’d like to thank Courtyard Planters for their pivotal role in this. It seems strange that in a first-world town we have to use sheer muscle to do this work and OiB remain convinced that, given time, Otley will develop the technology to move water by pipes. In the meantime we will work to ensure that OiB and the BID continue to pay humans to lug it around.

Advice; where we can, OiB offers advice. We did so this year to maintain the plants around the new illuminated advertising hoarding at Springfield Close and in a design to allow easily maintained planters on the front of the Action for Older People building.

Wildflower plantings; the first year of the BT wildflower garden went well in terms of a massive range of different wildflowers growing as well as the recovery of a fair few bulbed plants. Unfortunately the BT mowers decided to mow in May rather than October and so damaged some of the plants’ life cycles, but OiB re-mowed the area in October prior to an additional small sowing by WFO in November. OiB has also arranged for Rotary to wildflower plant the area to the north of Ilkley road underpass with Leeds Parks’ permission.

Covid memorial, daffodil plantings; OiB was asked to organise a mass daffodil planting at Garnett Wharf by a few residents. The planting was to recognise the suffering of the people of Otley from Covid and we found DWH and the Residents Committee in support of the project. It ended up with us planting 2,000 bulbs between Buon Apps and Tittybottle Park.

Annual Report 2020

Imagine my surprise when attending the November 2019 Otley in Bloom AGM to discover that I was now temporary chairman. Note to self: do not nod off in any meeting again. To say the least, the last year has been “interesting”, but it has been made especially pleasant by the friendly people of Otley and particularly OiB members who have done their best to keep Otley blooming during this difficult year.

Activities:

1) During 2019/20 we worked more than ever with other organisations. At the start of the year we produced a large piece of work with Wildlife Friendly Otley (WFO), Otley 2030 and Leeds Parks Department to show what Otley would look like as Leeds City Council starts planting 25 hectares of trees every year and brings changes to its land in Otley to combat climate change and improve biodiversity.
Ideas included increasing community orchards, more tree planting and allowing wildflowers on verges throughout the town. Unfortunately, Leeds Parks were not able to obtain political approval for these ideas because:
• within other parts of Leeds they had more low-hanging fruit to work with;
• to make the changes they would be required to ask their contractor to use mow-and-collect equipment which would entail capital expenditure; and
• the collection of clippings would require some sort of composting arrangements to be created within Otley.

2) But by October Leeds City Council had decided to raise its target to 50 hectares of trees per year and is again interested in our plans for Otley’s green spaces.

3) 2020 marked the 20th year of the existence of Otley in Bloom and we were just discussing our plans for celebration when Covid struck and we entered a long period of lockdown. Soon after that the national and county systems of “in Bloom” decided to cancel the competition for 2020. Working together outside even in small teams was, on occasions, not allowed.

4) Within Otley in Bloom we moved over to having our monthly meetings on Zoom and more regular use of Facebook. We will end the year by transferring our website to a more suitable portal. Perhaps only a small a retreat to the potting shed.

5) Early summer saw the arrival of a lot of graffiti in the underpass. OiB often works to remove graffiti but on this occasion the lack of access to the correct chemicals defeated us. Later Leeds Council’s graffiti team removed some of this and is still removing the last vestiges this autumn.

6) Collaborating with the BID, we saw that shops were about to reopen and that Leeds Parks had emptied out the 32 barrier planters. We knew that the people of Otley wanted to “do something” to fight Covid and we introduced the concept of “Otley is Blooming Back”. Over two weekends we replanted all 32. Once installed we paid for half the planters to be watered from our own funds but also worked with local shops, all of whom, when asked, stepped up to water them through the summer months for free. A truly emotional and life-reaffirming experience.

7) Having completed the wildflower design project with Leeds Parks, and building on our 2013 experience of planting wildflower meadows at The Whartons primary school, we looked around with WFO for a commercial site on which to carry out a further wildflower project. BT generously offered us the land surrounding their telephone exchange and, once the dry summer months were over and 6 people were allowed to congregate, we sowed wildflower seeds over half of their grassed area. Hopefully, spring 2021 will show the benefits.

8) OiB looks after some 60 individual planted areas in Otley, ranging from less than a square metre up to 80 square metres. Each of these has OiB members watching over to keep them nature-friendly and looking spick and span. All this work has continued throughout the pandemic, sometimes as small teams and sometimes as a lone volunteer.

9) On top of this, OiB continues to step in where others have run out of puff or if they need knowledge, contacts etc. We have also begun to help Otley 2030 with their projects on locally grown food.

10) 2021 should be an even more exciting year.

Bill Austin
Chairman, Otley in Bloom